By Omar Bihmidine
By Omar Bihmidine
Morocco World News
Sidi Ifni, April 15, 2013
It was in the summer of 2008, after obtaining my Associate Degree diploma, when some family members started asking me to look for a job where this diploma would be useful. At that point in time, I thought of little else than taking the entrance exam for the pedagogical regional center, known by its French acronym as CPR. Though at first I did not feel satisfied with it, due to some personal reasons, I finally convinced myself to go for it and become an official applicant. . My dissatisfaction with this position was rooted in a desire to continue my studies. Most of my professors constantly encouraged me to pursue my studies, so this ambition was difficult for me to put aside. However, I finally concluded that we must be realistic about the economic conditions in which we graduates are living.
A few weeks later, the applicants (including myself) were called upon to go to Marrakech, the location of the nearest center for us, and sitthe written exam. More precisely, it was during the month of Ramadan that two of my classmates and I traveled to that city, where we spent two days before the exam day. Psychologically speaking, we were afraid and nervous. Hence, we decided to study a bit, or rather to review the main skills of the English language. Of course, we spent some time the night before the exam walking and strolling in Jamaa El Fena square. We did this with the intention of calming our nerves and to get our minds off the exam for a little while. On the early morning of the following day, we headed towards the center to finish the job. .
It took us 5 hours to finish the exams, and we immediately went to the bus station to go back to El Jadida. In fact, we still attended classes at our university because we didn’t yet know the results. We spent nearly a month waiting for the results of the written exams, which eventually came at the end of October. I am happy to say that I succeeded, and I cannot articulate how excited I was about this achievement. To my two classmates’ dismay, they failed. But, they knew that they would one day or anther make it as they are very good at English. I also advised them to work hard and get their B.A., which some say is better than my modest diploma anyway.
When I was called to sit for the oral exam, I was alone this time. Yet I tried to gather my courage and travel alone. . Every one encouraged me to make a great effort in this last phase. I was very determined to make this dream come true at last. As usual, once in the city, I checked into a hotel and spent my last night there, reflecting upon the circumstances and the questions that the interviewers were going to pose. On that morning, at 8.30, I was the fourth interviewee and finished my last task. Though I did not feel the same felicity that I did when I passed the written one, I still had faith in myself, and I was expecting successful results.
At last, my name appeared on the final list and I could not express the overwhelming ecstasy I felt at that very moment. After this great success, I started to collect the necessary papers to register for my training at the center so that I could become a fully certified, real teacher. Nearly 8 months had passed when I finally sat down to describe my experiences and the problems I encountered during this training. In general, it was a great success. My experiences, though not exhaustive enough, were as follows: :
I would say that I cannot measure how beneficial this training has been to me as a teacher trainee. In this experience, I have developed at the level of my personality, my performance and of course my teaching methodology.
Naturally this training has taken different forms and has resulted in so many positive effects with regards to what we have been trained in. I appreciate the training even when we are busy with other things. Our trainers have made such great efforts to help us reach our goals and to become qualified teachers by the end of this training. Therefore, I am deeply indebted to them.
While the training was very short, I benefited a lot from it , especially at the level of my teaching methods. At the early start of this training year, I was introduced to the basic assumptions and principles that underlie the most important pedagogical theories. This was done as an introduction to the field of learning and teaching. Here, I came to realize what both learning and teaching involve. Theoretically, I have gained a lot of specific tools which I have used and will use in my classroom to fully understand how students undergo learning a new language like English. Likewise, as a teacher, I have become familiar with how my teaching process develops and flourishes with time and experience.
In fact, this training helped me know about some learning theories like behaviorism, nativism and cognitivism. In my study of these theories I came across and investigated different hypotheses and ideas about learning and teaching. Some theories are still new, whereas others are very old and no longer applicable in today’s classes. Therefore, I had the chance to use my critical analysis to synthesize all this information in order to see which theory best suits my own methodology. Of course, one might use proofs to argue for a particular theory and to turn down others. As a teacher, knowing about these played a very important role in that I have become aware of what I should do to promote the learning process of my students and my teaching profession.
Furthermore, I especially liked the contrast between L1 and L2 in this training. Here, I came to know the main differences of my mother tongue and the second language. Hence, this has raised my awareness of the students’ L1 and L2. Since I am teaching L2, my students and I should be conscious of how we learnt the L1.
The objective behind this is to help my students learn the new language and to help myself teach them the language more effectively and efficiently. Also, knowing about the humanistic approach helped a lot in establishing a good teacher-student rapport. In the same vein, Krashen’s theory of L2 acquisition has paved the way for me to easily make my students fluent speakers of the language.
As far as the ELT methods and approaches are concerned, I have developed an awareness of the most common ones. In my practical experiences, I have made use of many of them to teach English as a foreign language. I do not need to enumerate them all, but communicative language teaching, the competency-based approach and content-based instruction have intrigued me the most. Of course, I was trained to adhere to these approaches in my classroom as they are widely used nowadays. After familiarizing myself with these methods, I now know how to go about teaching and which method is more effective. Efficacy of a certain method is determined by how successful students are at learning the newly taught language. I strongly believe that this part of the training has greatly developed my teaching career.
With respect to language awareness, I have been trained to constantly improve my general linguistic skills. I thus took part in different classroom activities. These include various materials that are connected to our teaching career. The activities range from developing our reading skills, getting familiar with authentic materials, writing different types of essays to enhancing our speaking skills through class discussions, group work, etc. In general, I have been trained in the four main skills of the English language. Also, this part of training helped me feel linguistically secure and confident whenever I am in my classroom.
Though training in language awareness was not sufficient, I do not think it is that important when compared to the teaching of methodology. But, studying it helped us brush up on our grammar and vocabulary knowledge.
One of the best and most important parts of the training is to know how to teach language skills. We explored the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing and used different approaches to teach each one of them. We did this in peer teaching. I had the chance to teach my colleagues as if they had been my students. This helped me enrich my methods and steps as each skill is different from another. As soon as I become well versed in these teaching skills, I always attempt to apply them in the classroom context.
Last but not least, each one of us experienced teaching an activity in which these skills are integrated. This experience was very intriguing in that we unconsciously learned how to make a smooth transition from one skill to another. . In this respect, as I have experience, I applied different approaches like presentation, practice and production in my teaching of some grammar points. Furthermore, I designed my own activities and tasks. In the case of teaching possessive pronouns, I used as many activities as possible for the sake of variety. Variety is the spice of life. For instance, I involved my students to facilitate my explanation of possessive pronouns.
As for classroom management as a module, I acquired different skills that enabled me to become a very effective classroom manager. Initially, we quickly went over some theoretical books that are about this discipline so that we could have a general idea about it. As there is a certain number of rulesthat must be abided by, I try to apply most of them in my classes. In the case of disruptive behavior, I have learned that a teacher should never insult a student in front of his or her partners. Rather, he or she should talk to that student in private to resolve the problem. These tips have been of great value to me as a prospective teacher.
In the same field, I have also learned some procedures whereby I can easily monitor group work, class discussions and announcements. As a result, students have become more co-operative and willing to interact. Once I became familiar with these tips, I no longer had problems in the following teaching practicums. Knowing these points greatly helps a teacher assess and evaluate his or her students’ performance.
As a future scorer of students’ exam papers, I have benefited a great deal from the module of testing and evaluation. In this area, I have studied some terminology related to testing, assessment and evaluation. Of course, we have opted for and investigated certain methods of testing and evaluation. As a test designer, I should always take into account some criteria by which tests are successfully devised, such as validity and reliability. I also learnt that there are different types of tests. Preferring one to another depends on the purpose, the level of the students and the subject matter on which students are going to be tested. Basically, we have a better understanding of what tests and exams should look like and what language areas should be evaluated.
Another part of the training includes the project work that I conducted in the module of civic education. At first, our trainer introduced us to the basic principles of this field, such as Human Rights and gender equality. Of course, this field is closely related to our career, teaching English as a foreign language. I learnt some of the human rights that the USA Congress has declared. Since these principles are applicable in any school setting, I have completed a modest two-page research project entitled “Implementing the Principles of Civic education in Junior High School.” In it, I investigated the extent to which I, as a teacher, can improve the quality of our school life and the lives of our students as well. In fact, even I have acquired some civic education skills along the way.
Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to study Information and Communication Technology for ELT. As we all know, this is due to lack of technological materials and sophisticated computers in this center. Our teaching would have been more effective with this technology, especially Data Show, as we would have had exposure to authentic speeches by expert methodologists and teacher trainers in the teaching field. No one can deny how important the ICT’s contributions are in helping us to become professional and competent teachers.
My personality and attitude towards language learning and teaching are comparatively speaking the most influential aspects of this training. From the very early start of this year, I was a bit diffident whenever I stood in front of an audience. I did not have the audacity to face the public and to feel open to them. I would assume that this was mainly due to my timidity and aloofness towards my colleagues. Of course, I was completely sure that this was not a function of my linguistic or communicative competence, but rather of the nature of my personality.
For example, I was also nervous and overcome by stage fright whenever I was asked to deliver a presentation or speak in public for two minutes. .However, as the saying goes, “where there is a will, there is a way”, and I immediately focused on resolving this problem by gaining a great deal of confidence and courage. Consequently, I took part in every presentation or exposé in order to entirely eradicate my fear of public speaking.
My trainers have made so many efforts to help me feel relaxed and confident. Later on, I felt that their efforts had a very positive impact on my performances and I did extremely well on all the tests I sat for. The very good practicums that I experienced reflect this progress. Most of my mentors appreciated my teaching and my presence in the classroom. All of this is due to the constant training I received at the center.
Notwithstanding, there are so many things that I would like to change about the way we received our training. First and foremost, I am not totally satisfied with how our performances were assessed and evaluated. For instance, in the case of the exams administered, we are only asked to write what our trainers taught us. That is, we have been trained to memorize things and give them back to our trainers on paper. One of the bad ramifications of this act is that we will no longer be encouraged to use our critical minds and to be good analysts, particularly in the field of teaching, where it is so desperately needed.
As a proposal, since we are mature practitioners of the English language, I think it would be better for us to be given some sample articles about a certain topic related to teaching and then ask us to critically analyze it, offer solutions to the problems posed, and then to support our arguments. We would thus be able to put the theories that we learned into practice. This is, after all, the main aim of any training. Sometimes, we are not provided with concrete solutions to the problems we encounter in the practicums. Instead, we are given recipes and pieces which are not very often universally agreed upon even among the trainers and supervisors.
Despite all the complaints I have discussed and the proposals I have suggested, I can never deny what our trainers and supervisor have done to make us excellent and qualified teachers by the end of this training. I strongly believe that without this intense life that I led at the center, I would not have become what I am today. I have become a completely different person. This year of training has made a great difference in both my academic and personal life. Last but not least, I would like to warmly and deeply thank my trainers Mr. Mohamed Bamhamed, Lahsen Boutglay, Mr. Ayad Chraa, Miss Fatima Drifi and my supervisor Mr. Nejrane for the unforgettable and enjoyable moments that we spent together.
Edited by Anna Jacobs